What kinds of horses do you need for the program?
Let’s start this section by very clearly stating that there are many, many wonderful horses around. Most of us working in this program have our own horses at home. We love horses! The truth is, though, that the job skills for a therapy horse are pretty steep.

A 2006 article in The Horse magazine summed up therapy horse needs this way: “...often people think that any older, mild-mannered, semi-sound horse of any size fits the bill. On the contrary, the ideal therapy horse is between the ages of eight and 12, around 15 hands high, and highly athletic. ... a therapy horse needs to be safe, predictable, and sound. He has to be intelligent, well-conditioned, unflappable, sensitive, patient, hard-working, balanced, and versatile. He must also be tolerant of unpredictable noises and positional changes made by riders, and responsive to his handler and the riders’ instructions. These qualifications insure safety for the rider, and provide an environment that allows the rider to enjoy and benefit from his or her experiences with horses.“

As you can see, therapy horses truly are exceptional animals.

Research has shown that therapy horses actually need to be 30 to 40% more athletic than the average recreational horse. This is surprising to most people but, of course, it makes a great deal of sense. A therapy horse must be able to adjust to unbalanced riders and that can take a toll on the muscles and coordination of the horse.

A therapy horse must have the right temperament for this type of JOB; specifically, they need to be very patient as riders mount and dismount as well as be able to adjust to the physical needs of each individual rider. They need to be comfortable with many obstacles, noises, and riders who often send confusing signals.

So, when selecting a horse to participate in our program, we must look for a horse that is suitable for equine assisted activities and therapy. While minor health issues in a horse might be acceptable, horses must be sound enough to work regularly. Areas we review for evaluating a horse for our program:

• Conformation
• Health
• Age
• Gaits and manner of going
• Attitude, reliability and adaptability

Horses must be sound in all four limbs. Soundness is important in order to have a rhythmic, cadenced, free-moving stride at the walk, trot and canter. Horses that can only walk with limited trotting are of minimal use to our riders. A horse with an unbalanced stride could cause disturbing responses in our riders.

There are, of course, exceptions but, ideally, horses should be between nine and sixteen years of age. Due to the amount of training we invest in our horses, we hope they will stay with us for several years.

How will I know if my horse will work in the program?
Any horse being donated to our program is taken in for a ninety (90) day evaluation period. During that time, we will work with the horse at our mounting ramp and observe him for soundness, willingness, and ability to adapt to his surroundings and routine. At the end of the Trial Period, we will contact you to let you know if the horse has been accepted into the program. If not, we will make arrangements to return the horse to your property.

What is required from me about my horse?
We must have a current negative Coggins before we can take a horse onto our property and into our care. Beyond that, your veterinary records will be helpful to us in continuing to keep your horse healthy and happy.

How will my horse be cared for at Ridin’ High?
One of the reasons we are involved with Ridin’ High is our love of horses. We will give your horse the same attentive care given to all our horses. We provide regular veterinary and farrier care. We do not routinely stall or blanket our horses and, whenever possible, we do not have shoes on our horses. Shoeing is, of course, dependent upon the specific, individual needs of each horse. We provide good hay and fresh water. We do not routinely provide supplements or specialty feeds; however, if your horse is currently on a supplement, we will feed to the end of your container.

Will you pick the horse up from my barn?
It is always helpful if you can deliver the horse; however, if that is not possible, we will make arrangements for someone from our staff to pick the horse up from your barn.

Can I visit my horse after the donation?
Ridin’ High is open on lesson days and we welcome the public to observe what is provided to our riders. You may visit on lesson days and interact with your horse when it will, of course, not interfere with any planned activities. Donation horses are not, though, available for riding at any time.

As a non-profit, how does my donation get a tax deduction?
Each individual’s tax situation is different so you should check with your tax advisor about how this donation might benefit your particular tax needs. If your horse is accepted into the program, Ridin’ High will provide you with a Letter of Donation. Ridin’ High is not able to estimate the value of your horse and will leave that up to you, the donor, to indicate.

If you have a special horse that you believe would like a job as a therapy horse, please contact us at (423) 585-0331



From time to time, we find we need to find new homes for some of our therapy partners. Many of our horses give us years of service and we feel become eligible for "retirement". Occasionally, a horse simply is not suited to the work required at a therapeutic program. If this is the case, we will disclose the reasons for the new placement. All homes will be checked out by staff prior to placement. A loving home is a must!  Please email for more info.